Planes, Cruise Ships, and Germs
Boost your chances of healthy travel by taking a few preventive steps.
Flu Season Coming continued...
2. Stay hydrated. "Keep up your fluids," Schaffner says.
Avoid or limit caffeine and alcohol, because both can cause dehydration. If you
want to indulge in an alcoholic drink or a cup of java, make sure you drink
plenty of water before and during the flight. You can also keep your eyes and
nasal passages moist with saline eye drops and saline nasal spray.
3. Ask a flight attendant for new seating if a passenger nearby is
coughing, sneezing or appears ill. "Proximity matters," says
Schaffner, who once developed a cold within a couple of days after sitting by a
sneezing, sniffling plane passenger. "Being very close to the source -- in
the same row or two seats in front or back -- those are the folks who are at
greatest risk," he says. "After that, the risk tails off very
The reason? Large aircraft are designed so that air doesn't blow from the
front to the rear of the cabin, but instead, air circulates
"segmentally," from ceiling to floor. "You're really in
your own kind of air zone, with about two rows in front and two in back,"
The longer you're seated near an ill passenger, the greater your risk of
exposure, Schaffner adds. "The longer you're together, the more apt you are
to talk with each other, perhaps even touch the same things, and the longer you
share the same airspace."
4. Consider getting a flu shot before you travel. Some experts like
Schaffner worry that this year's flu season may be harsher than in the last
It takes two weeks to get maximum immune protection from the flu shot,
Schaffner says. But getting the shot late can still confer some
protection. "From the moment you get the inoculation, your immune system
begins to rev up in response to the vaccine."
"Although colds are a bother," Schaffner adds, "influenza is the
viral infection that will put you into the hospital. It's the one that can get
complicated by pneumonia, it's the one that year in and year out, on average,
causes 36,000 deaths each year. It's the serious one. Get vaccinated. Protect
yourself. Then you'll be a good citizen on the airplane and at home. You won't
transmit influenza to anyone else, either."